Posts tagged “shopping”

ChittahChattah Quickies

It’s been a while since I posted short snippets around links I’ve found fascinating, and while that means these stories don’t come out of this week’s news, I think they are all are provocative and worth being aware of.

Marketers change pronunciation in ads to attract shoppers [CBC] – The value of the Z as a cultural indicator when selling products in Canada. Canadian companies remind of their status by highlighting the “zed” while some American companies will create a Canadian-specific ad, replacing “zee: with “zed” (depending on the product and it’s meaning – and cost)

Because cars are so closely tied to image and identity, it’s very important to get that identity correct when speaking to Canadian car buyers. But in the end, it all comes down to dollars and cents. If the product is low-end and utilitarian, marketers will go cheap and run the U.S. product name, commercial and pronunciation in both countries.

But when there’s a risk of offending the identity of Canadian buyers of big ticket items, marketers will spend the extra loonies to do a custom version for Canada.

Threat of Death Makes People Go Shopping [Inkfish] – Here’s a finding that we really don’t want to see in the wrong hands!

Nothing says “Let’s hit the outlet mall” like nearly being wiped out by a rocket. A study of both Americans and terrorized Israelis suggests that certain people respond to the threat of death by going shopping. Because if it’s your time to go, you may as well be wearing the latest from Forever 21 Michigan State University marketing professor Ayalla Ruvio and her colleagues performed two studies of potential shoppers. The first took place in Israel. Questionnaires were handed out at a community center in a town just one kilometer from the Gaza Strip, during six months of daily rocket attacks there in 2007. The same surveys were distributed in a second town farther from the fighting, where residents were aware of the violence but not in direct danger. The questionnaires were meant to ferret out a few different answers about people. Did they experience post-traumatic symptoms such as nightmares or memory loss? Did they cope with negative feelings by buying things? How often did they return from a shopping trip with items they hadn’t meant to purchase? Other questions assessed how materialistic the subjects were-did they place a lot of value on owning nice things? Israelis who were experiencing daily rocket attacks, unsurprisingly, reported more post-traumatic stress. People who felt more stress admitted to more compulsive or impulsive shopping behaviors. And both these effects (feeling stress and going shopping) were stronger in more materialistic people. For their second study, the researchers used a group of 855 American subjects, meant to be demographically representative of the U.S. population overall. Subjects filled out an online survey that measured their materialism, shopping habits, and how much they thought about their own death, as well as other factors. Once again, for people who were more materialistic, there was a relationship between fear of death and impulse buying.

Because the more materialistic Israelis experienced more stress, the researchers think “materialism makes bad events even worse.” And when materialistic people feel threatened, they buy things they don’t really want (or maybe can’t afford). The findings don’t only apply to people living in the Middle East. Events that make people fear for their lives can include car accidents, assaults, and natural disasters. Yet Ruvio puts a positive spin on the ubiquity of trauma. “This presents an opportunity for both manufacturers of impulse items and the retailers that sell these products,” she writes. When a severe storm or a military crisis is brewing, she suggests stores put their high-profit-margin items up front where impulse shoppers will see them.

While retailers may be able to benefit from people’s crises, shoppers themselves won’t. Previous research, Ruvio writes, shows that “most materialistic individuals derive little satisfaction from their consumption activities.” So much for retail therapy.

Weird T-Shirts Designed To Confuse Facebook’s Auto-Tagging [Wired Design] – The space where conceptual art meets technology can be interesting, where working solutions can be produced to comment on the problem without fully solving it, and yet point the way to a possible future where those problems are addressed this way.

How to fight back? Just buy one of Simone C. Niquille’s “REALFACE Glamoflage” T-shirts, a series of bizarre, visage-covered garments designed specifically to give Facebook’s facial recognition software the runaround.

Niquille dreamed up the shirts as part of her master’s thesis in graphic design at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam. FaceValue, as the thesis is titled, imagines new design solutions for the near-future, mining the ripe intersection of privacy, pattern recognition and biometrics. The shirts, custom-printed for around $65, are one of three such imaginings–a tongue-halfway-in-cheek tool for pushing back against the emerging trends of ubiquitous, computer-aided recognition. Covered in distorted faces of celebrity impersonators, they’re designed to keep Facebook’s algorithms guessing about what–or more accurately who–they’re looking at.

“I was interested in the T-shirt as a mundane commodity,” Niquille explains. “An article of clothing that in most cases does not need much consideration in the morning in front of the closet…I was interested in creating a tool for privacy protection that wouldn’t require much time to think in the morning, an accessory that would seamlessly fit in your existing everyday. No adaption period needed.”

Promoting Health With Enticing Photos of Fruits and Vegetables [NYT] – Bolthouse Farms created a fanciful website that visualizes food-related social media content.

“It’s not that I don’t have an Oreo every once in a while,” Mr. Putman said. “We just want folks to understand that beautiful carrots have badge value the same way peanut butter, chocolate pie does.” Having badge value means something is interesting enough to deserve a hashtag.

Bitcoin Beauties promotes use of currency by women [SFGate] – If this provides empowerment to someone, then that’s great. But I don’t understand this at all. It seems like Trending Topic + Nekkid Ladies = something.

The company’s slogan is “Beauty, Brains, Bitcoin.” Its logo is a sketch of two voluptuous, nude women, posing pin-up style beside the stylized bitcoin “B.” The company website, yet to be completed, is now a photo collage of women, some topless, silhouetted against a beach sunset. Blincoe refers to members as “our beauties.” For Blincoe, there is urgency in staking a claim for women in the highly lucrative world of bitcoin, a crypto currency that by many accounts has the potential to shape the future of how transactions take place and currency flows online. For now, the main function of Bitcoin Beauties is hosting a small-but-growing weekly gathering where women talk bitcoin.

The Anti-Digit Dialing League [Orange Crate Art] – A mostly-forgotten (and mostly unsuccessful) rebellion against a technological advance. Also see the followup here.

The Anti-Digit Dialing League was a short-lived movement that arose in 1962 and faded, it would seem, in 1964. Founded in San Francisco, the ADDL opposed “creeping numeralism” and fought a losing battle to preserve the use of telephone exchange names.

Lena’s War Story: The Researcher and the Banana Thief

Lena Blackstock (@lenacorinna) recently graduated with a Master’s in Design Ethnography from the University of Dundee, Scotland. She is currently a Creative Contextualiser at Point-Blank International in Berlin.

While getting my Master of Design Ethnography at the University of Dundee I was able to dive head first into full-on ethnographic research projects with actual clients. We were asked to do research on self-service usage in Scotland. After the first few interviews and shop-alongs I met one of my last participants in a nearby coffee shop. Initially she was only going to do an interview but then agreed to also do a shop-along the next day. She offered to invite her roommate along, which was especially interesting as I was trying to understand more about how groups use self-service technology. I jumped at this opportunity.

I met the participant and her roommate in front of a large grocery store in town and we moved through the aisle as they stocked up on groceries for the week. They were sharing a cart throughout the shopping trip but when we came up to the self-service checkout area, they each took out their groceries and separated them on the checkout counter. They each managed to navigate through the self-service process without any major glitches (aside from the occasional “unexpected item in bagging area”), even with the loose fruits and vegetables they had to weigh and scan.

After the shopping trip we went back to their home and I wrapped up with a few informal questions to get feedback on their experience during this shopping trip. As I was finishing my last questions my participant’s roommate said something that caught me by surprise. I asked them about any issues they may have encountered during scanning or weighing items at the checkout, and almost as an afterthought, she mentions: “Well no, not really-but you can trick those machines when you weigh stuff, you know? For example, when I buy bananas, like today, I hold them up a bit when I weigh them so that the machine only charges for a smaller amount than it really is.”

Yikes! Had I just gotten myself into one of those ethical dilemmas that we had talked about in Uni? I had unintentionally captured a self-service banana thief. In one of our previous modules, we had conversations about dealing with these dilemmas, but those were theories. I was now in the real position of having to make a choice as a researcher. Should I stay true to the data and include the information in the final report for the client, even if I didn’t directly observe it or ask for it? And what about the fact that the banana thief wasn’t even the actual participant whom I had recruited, but her roommate? Does that make a difference? On the off chance that the client wants more details on this fact, how will I handle this? Surely I have to hold true to the confidentiality agreement with the participants, right? Or should I just leave that one tiny bit of information out of the report? Is it really that important to the report if I wasn’t asking for it? But what if this piece of information, which got me into this conundrum in the first place, is actually pertinent to the research project and addresses some of the client’s challenges and pain-points?

In addition to these concerns, I also had to work within the University Ethical Guidelines. And as an ethnographer-in-training, I had to make a decision on how to handle this information. Not only this once, but from this point forward if I was going to go out into the world and work as a researcher. I realized this was as good a time as any to ask myself: What kind of values am I going to live by as a researcher?

In this case, I chose to include the findings in my report and stay true to what I observed. I made a very conscious decision that no matter what, I would not share the confidential information of my participant. In the end the client was happy to hear the ‘real story,’ as it confirmed some of the security issues of this technology that they were suspecting. Now, would I make this same decision the exact same way in a project today? I can’t say. Many factors play into the decisions we make as researchers and often, we have to rely on some sort of gut feeling. But encountering this situation at the beginning of my ‘life as an ethno’, forced me to internalize the challenges and to make a choice.

Most research projects have their own version of a ‘banana thief’, an unexpected observation or something overheard, something that challenges our approach, our assumptions and our moral code for conducting research.

In the end, my chance encounter with the self-service banana thief didn’t provide me with answers for future encounters, but presented a first instance to ask myself questions and to begin shaping my personal approach to research. And that is a good start.

ChittahChattah Quickies

The Mechanic Muse – From Scroll to Screen [NYTimes.com] – It’s easy to get caught up in the user interface changes that digital technology brings to everyday activities like reading, but of course there are very cool precursors (if you will) in the history of book design.

But so far the great e-book debate has barely touched on the most important feature that the codex introduced: the nonlinear reading that so impressed St. Augustine. If the fable of the scroll and codex has a moral, this is it. We usually associate digital technology with nonlinearity, the forking paths that Web surfers beat through the Internet’s underbrush as they click from link to link. But e-books and nonlinearity don’t turn out to be very compatible. Trying to jump from place to place in a long document like a novel is painfully awkward on an e-reader, like trying to play the piano with numb fingers. You either creep through the book incrementally, page by page, or leap wildly from point to point and search term to search term. It’s no wonder that the rise of e-reading has revived two words for classical-era reading technologies: scroll and tablet. That’s the kind of reading you do in an e-book. The codex is built for nonlinear reading – not the way a Web surfer does it, aimlessly questing from document to document, but the way a deep reader does it, navigating the network of internal connections that exists within a single rich document like a novel. Indeed, the codex isn’t just another format, it’s the one for which the novel is optimized. The contemporary novel’s dense, layered language took root and grew in the codex, and it demands the kind of navigation that only the codex provides

Thanks, Ilya!

Ultrabook: Intel’s $300 million plan to beat Apple at its own game [Ars Technica] – Although a divergence from the main theme of the post, the author’s narrative of trying to make a laptop purchase online is hilarious and depressing all at the same time.

The options I get are just… meaningless. Yes, I want “Everyday Computing,” so I want an Inspiron. But hang on, I also want “Design & Performance,” so I want an XPS. Wait a second, I want “Thin & Powerful,” too. So maybe I want a Z Series? But the only line that apparently matches my broad search criteria-lightweight, 11-14″-I wouldn’t even consider because I don’t want a “gaming” laptop, and so I’m never going to click Alienware! Is this the best way to sell laptops? Create a bunch of categories with arbitrary, overlapping labels, and just hope that buyers manage to fight through the system to find something that isn’t wretched? Maybe HP will be better… no, not really. Their site has some outright weirdnesses (yes, I’m in the UK, and yes, we’re metric, but no, I don’t want my screen measured diagonally in centimeters; we don’t do that). The same odd labels cover everything-I know I don’t want “Mini/Netbook,” but I want both “Everyday Computing” (that term again) and “High performance” (because I don’t want it to be slow, do I?). And who knows what “Envy” means? When I tick my screen size and weight boxes, I get back a crop of lousy netbooks that are almost the complete opposite of what I want.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from julienorvaisas] Overwhelmed Online Shoppers in UK Can Justbuythisone [Advertising Age] – [Beta site leverages online reviews of many products to lead online shoppers directly to a product.] The explosion of consumer choice makes the internet a giant playground for some, but for the many people who find themselves paralyzed by too many options, Justbuythisone.com is coming. It offers consumers the opportunity to "stop shopping and start enjoying life" by providing just one search result for each category of electrical goods. So if you're looking for a TV for less than $500 it will tell you which one to buy, and give you three concise reasons why. Kyle McGinn was part of the team that came up with the idea during an offline brainstorming week. "We knew that 25% of people are overwhelmed by the choice on price comparison sites and inspired by TED talks on the paradox of choice and the need to sweat the small stuff, we decided to create something utterly simple and extremely useful." It is also built around principles of data visualization.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Lessons from the 50s Housewife Experiment [Jen But Never Jenn] – [Jen chooses to spend a week doing like a 50s-era homemaker would have done, writing about the experience as it happens. Here's where she wraps it up] I'm not sure if it's residual resentment from societal expectations / limitations like the one above, a new set of expectations that you're not really contributing (to society / your home / womanhood, even) unless you bring home a paycheck, or new standards of living that insist we need to be making more money – but the appreciation for the homemaker has dwindled along with the number of people who actually earnestly take on the role. You don't hear of many people who have chosen a career in homemaking. Yes, there is the stay-at-home mom (although of the stay-at-home moms I personally know, all but one brings in some revenue through at-home businesses, part-time work or consulting – so even she often wears a career hat). But the stay-at-home wife (and not the trophy-wife-with-a-maid variety)? She's officially on the endangered list.
  • [from steve_portigal] Sears.com for Zombies – [When you think of the Sears brand, you probably don't think of edgy, humorous, ironic, or meta. But this landing page for their e-commerce site is full-on zombified, with all the product and model shots replaced by zombies, benefit statements, messaging, navigation, etc. all tweaked to suit the undead. There's even a multi-language option, replacing English with Zombian gahhhrs and gaaahks. This is very much the type of parody humor we find online, but we never see a major retailer all-in like this. It's really refreshing. Probably won't be active much past Halloween.]

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Ont. parents suspect Wi-Fi making kids sick [CBC.ca] – ["Proving" something is causing health problems is tough; but our willingness to believe with full certainty is powerful. We see this perception as a barrier to adoption in many categories of products and services.] A group of central Ontario parents is demanding their children's schools turn off wireless internet before they head back to school next month, fearing the technology is making the kids sick. Some parents in the Barrie, Ont., area say their children are showing a host of symptoms, ranging from headaches to dizziness and nausea and even racing heart rates. They believe the Wi-Fi setup in their kids' elementary schools may be the problem. The symptoms, which also include memory loss, trouble concentrating, skin rashes, hyperactivity, night sweats and insomnia, have been reported in 14 Ontario schools in Barrie, Bradford, Collingwood, Orillia and Wasaga Beach since the board decided to go wireless, Palmer said. "These kids are getting sick at school but not at home," he said.
  • [from steve_portigal] Budgets Tight, School Supply Lists Go Beyond Glue Sticks [NYTimes.com] – [A cultural reframe moment; retail is there] Schools across the country are beginning the new school year with shrinking budgets and outsize demands for basic supplies. On the list for pre-kindergartners at McClendon Elementary in Nevada, TX.: a package of cotton balls, two containers of facial tissue, rolls of paper towels, sheaves of manila and construction paper, and a package of paper sandwich bags.Retailers are rushing to cash in by expanding the back-to-school category like never before.Now some back-to-school aisles are almost becoming janitorial-supply destinations as multipacks of paper towels, cleaning spray and hand sanitizer are crammed alongside pens, notepads and backpacks. OfficeMax is featuring items like Clorox wipes in its school displays and is running two-for-one specials on cleaners like gum remover and disinfectant spray. Office Depot has added paper towels and hand sanitizer to its back-to-school aisles. Staples’ school fliers show reams of copy paper on sale.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from Dan_Soltzberg] Design by Use and object repurposing [Pasta&Vinegar] – [Nicolas Nova's written a nicely condensed post on Uta Brandes, Sonja Stich and Miriam Wender's book Design by Use: The Everyday Metamorphosis of Things. (Object re-use and re-purposing is a subject dear to our own hearts – see http://portigal.com/blog/new-uses-for-old-tools/ and http://portigal.com/blog/from-pain-points-to-opportunity-areas/ ) ] Among other sources, Nova quotes Metropolis: "The British sculptor Richard Wentworth once said, I find cigarette packets folded up under table legs more monumental than a Henry Moore. Five reasons. Firstly, the scale. Secondly, the fingertip manipulation. Thirdly, modesty of both gesture and material. Fourth, its absurdity and fifth, the fact that it works.”
  • [from steve_portigal] Shoppers on a ‘Diet’ Tame the Urge to Buy [NYTimes.com] – [Thanks to @gretared] This self-imposed exercise in frugality was prompted by a Web challenge called Six Items or Less (sixitemsorless.com). The premise was to go an entire month wearing only six items already found in your closet (not counting shoes, underwear or accessories). Nearly 100 people around the country, and in faraway places like Dubai and Bangalore were also taking part in the regimen, with motives including a way to trim back on spending, an outright rejection of fashion, and a concern that the mass production and global transportation of increasingly cheap clothing was damaging the environment. An even stricter program, the Great American Apparel Diet, has attracted pledges by more than 150 women and two men to abstain from buying for an entire year. (Again, undies don’t count.) Though their numbers may be small, and their diets extreme, these self-deniers of fashion are representative, in perhaps a notable way, of a broader reckoning of consumers’ spending habits.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Texting in Meetings – It Means ‘I Don’t Care’ [NYTimes.com] – For more than a decade, my colleagues and I have gathered data on incivility from more than 9,000 managers and workers across the United States, and we’re continuing this work internationally. We have learned a great deal about the problem’s causes and consequences. I define incivility as behavior, seemingly inconsequential to the doer, that others perceive as inconsiderate. Electronic devices lead to more incivility because of their powerful ability to claim our attention — no matter where we are or what we’re doing. No one likes to be snubbed, of course, but the offense can take on a new edge when the winner is a machine.
  • Putting Customers in Charge of Designing Shirts [NYTimes.com] – “The value proposition of customization at retail prices was a cornerstone of our company from the very start,” Mr. Bi tells me by phone from Shanghai, where Blank Label shirts are sewn to customers’ specifications and delivered anywhere in the world in about four weeks. But Blank Label, his Web start-up based in Boston, offers something else that off-the-rack doesn’t: “the emotional value proposition: how expressive something is.” “People really like a Blank Label shirt because they can say, ‘I had a part in creating this.’ ”
  • Google Restricts Ads for ‘Cougar’ Sites [NYTimes.com] – Last week, CougarLife.com, which was paying Google $100,000 a month to manage its advertising, was notified by the company that its ads would no longer be accepted. When notified by Google of the decision, CougarLife proposed substituting a different ad for the ones that were running, picturing older women and younger men together. Cougarlife said it would use an image of the company’s president, Claudia Opdenkelder, 39, without a man in the picture (she lives with her 25-year-old boyfriend). But the advertising department was told in an e-mail message from its Google representative that “the policy is focused particularly around the concept of ‘cougar dating’ as a whole,” and asked if the company would be open to changing “the ‘cougar’ theme/language specifically (including the domain if necessary).” CougarLife forwarded the e-mail messages to The New York Times. Google would not comment on the messages but did confirm that they were consistent with the new policy on cougar sites.

This Year’s Virtual Model

Not new, but new to me: Lands’ End Virtual Model, allowing people to shop online for clothes and see what the clothes would look like on a person. The idea is that the person is you, the shopper, but there’s a fundamental disconnect between projection onto a mannequin (digital, even) and projection into a mirror. The person in the mirror is us. It doesn’t approximate us, it looks exactly like us and it naturally moves in response to our every movement. The virtual model is clumsy in comparison.

I think the whole notion of seeing the clothes in context is (including in combination) is brilliant, but I think the conceit (and it really is just that) of presenting this us a projection of us is completely wrong. Looking in the mirror is the gold standard and this breaks that badly. There’s a lot of customization (just like an avatar builder) of height, weight, body type, skin tone, hair style, etc.

So I started with
model1

Umm, hello, body image norms?

and eventually customized him/me/it to end up with
model2

Umm, is it weird to post this? It’s virtual, but the concept suggests this approximates what I look like in my underpants. I can tell you not to worry, it really doesn’t, but the idea seems a bit transgressive, because of the level of accuracy we expect from representations. A photograph isn’t me, but carries a certain truth. Also don’t worry, no actual underpants pictures of me are coming up in this post either.

As for the virtual me, I think we’ll feel better if he/me has some clothes on!

model3

Frankly, I think this Simpsons avatar is more true version of me, even though it abandons reality, it also offers a kernel of truth and overall feels more accurate.
simpsons

Update: maybe the avatar isn’t meant to be a model, but instead an effective salesperson?

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • PC Makers Abandoning a Sales Pitch Built on Complex Specs – Ludicrous article claiming that all of a sudden, computers will be sold based on what they can accomplish, with a focus on aesthetics and design, and with models aimed at specific customer segments. How is any of this at all new? Much of this has been going on – to varying degrees of success – for well over a decade. And there's no indication that these "new" efforts will be any more well executed than they have in the past.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Words Move Me – Sony adds social networking around reading (but doesn’t seem you can *buy*) – "Words move me" was created by Sony to celebrate the words that move us and to share our reading experiences with others. Connecting with readers around literary moments enables us to express our individuality, share our own stories, and find commonalities with others.
    (Thanks @gpetroff)
  • Sony’s Daily Reader – Kindle Competition: Touchscreen Plus AT&T, for $399 – Includes software to link with local libraries and check out a library-based electronic book. Also has portrait reading mode (showing two pages), touchscreen, and broadband wireless access to add books without a PC.
  • IKEA as destination retail, in Beijing – Although the store is designed similarly to Western IKEAs, the meaning and usage has changed. In Beijing, It's a place to rest and eat, more theme park than shopping emporium.
  • The lost art of reading: David Ulin on the challenge of focus in an era of distraction – Who do we want to be, she asks, and how do we go about that process of becoming in a world of endless options, distractions, possibilities? These are elementary questions, and for me, they cycle back to reading, to the focus it requires. When I was a kid, maybe 12 or 13, my grandmother used to get mad at me for attending family functions with a book. Back then, if I'd had the language for it, I might have argued that the world within the pages was more compelling than the world without; I was reading both to escape and to be engaged. All these years later, I find myself in a not-dissimilar position, in which reading has become an act of meditation, with all of meditation's attendant difficulty and grace. I sit down. I try to make a place for silence. It's harder than it used to be, but still, I read. (via Putting People First)

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • A thoughtful consideration (that could have so easily gone curmudgeonly) on the changes in how (and how much) we consume art – Cameras replaced sketching by the last century; convenience trumped engagement, the viewfinder afforded emotional distance and many people no longer felt the same urgency to look. It became possible to imagine that because a reproduction of an image was safely squirreled away in a camera or cell phone, or because it was eternally available on the Web, dawdling before an original was a waste of time, especially with so much ground to cover.
  • Michael Pollan on the cultural shifts revealed by themes in food-related TV entertainment – The historical drift of cooking programs — from a genuine interest in producing food yourself to the spectacle of merely consuming it — surely owes a lot to the decline of cooking in our culture, but it also has something to do with the gravitational field that eventually overtakes anything in television’s orbit…Buying, not making, is what cooking shows are mostly now about — that and, increasingly, cooking shows themselves: the whole self-perpetuating spectacle of competition, success and celebrity that, with “The Next Food Network Star,” appears to have entered its baroque phase. The Food Network has figured out that we care much less about what’s cooking than who’s cooking.
  • Nine Reasons RadioShack Shouldn’t Change Its Name – Best one is " RadioShack has problems beyond any issues with its name." Also they did already change name from Radio Shack to RadioShack.
  • Radio Shack: Our friends call us The Shack – Do they really now? More proof that you can't simply declare yourself cool. Promo or overall rebranding, it reeks of inauthenticity.
  • Understand My Needs – a multicultural perspective – A Japanese usability professional compares the norms of service that retailers provide in Japan with those elsewhere (say, his experience living in Canada), and then contrasts that to the common usability problems found in Japanese websites. Culture is a powerful lens to see what causes these differences, and how usability people can help improve the experience.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • In Recession, Strategy Shifts for Retail – It's hard to parse this piece; it's about a lot of cost-cutting stuff that is happening in retail but the tone suggests that these are innovative ways for companies to be more responsive (better customer service? better localization of products?) and integrated (linking the in-store and online experiences?). I'm skeptical and don't believe the concluding statement that this is happening because we're not spending in stores like we used to, it's too close to the whole "innovate your way out of a recession" talk and I don't think retail is an adaptable industry to take on a frame shift like that.
  • An evolutionary perspective on what we display to others with our consumption (not clear how there's anything new here, though) – Instead of running focus groups and spinning theories,marketers could learn more by administering scientifically calibrated tests of intelligence and personality traits. If marketers understood biologists’ new calculations about animals’ “costly signaling,” they’d see that Harvard diplomas and iPhones send the same kind of signal as the ornate tail of a peacock.

    Sometimes the message is as simple as “I’ve got resources to burn,” the classic conspicuous waste demonstrated by the energy expended to lift a peacock’s tail or the fuel guzzled by a Hummer. But brand-name products aren’t just about flaunting transient wealth. The audience for our signals care more about the permanent traits measured in tests of intelligence and personality, as Dr. Miller explains in his new book, “Spent: Sex, Evolution and Consumer Behavior.”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Lovenest: Help Keep Your Baby’s Head Round – The parent-of-baby market seems unique in its (often peer-reinforced) drive to identify new needs and corresponding solutions. This leads to a lot of stuff being produced, some as expensive replacements for existing satisfactory (if generic) solutions, but much of it seemingly innovative. I suppose the work of a parent now includes the emotionally fraught process of trying to sort out the difference.
  • Icon-o-Cast by Lunar : Best products & experiences for new moms & their babies – This is a really great discussion about how parents-to-be seek out product information, what products are offering and not offering, the challenges around integration with other products and with the existing home environment. Good insight and tons of opportunity for designers, brands, and retailers.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Spokane residents "smuggling" banned phosphate-containing detergents from out of county and out of state – The quest for squeaky-clean dishes has turned some law-abiding people in Spokane into dishwater-detergent smugglers. They are bringing Cascade or Electrasol in from out of state because the eco-friendly varieties required under Washington state law don't work as well. Spokane County became the launch pad last July for the nation's strictest ban on dishwasher detergent made with phosphates, a measure aimed at reducing water pollution. The ban will be expanded statewide in July 2010, the same time similar laws take effect in several other states.
    Many people were shocked to find that products like Seventh Generation, Ecover and Trader Joe's left their dishes encrusted with food, smeared with grease and too gross to use without rewashing them by hand. The culprit was hard water, which is mineral-rich and resistant to soap. As a result, there has been a quiet rush of Spokane-area shoppers heading east on Interstate 90 into Idaho in search of old-school suds.

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